Capturing our love for art, adventure and learning
Feeling like a failure is a crushing feeling that many are familiar with.
"Look at so-and-so, they have achieved XYZ, what have you achieved?"
"This thing you are doing? You'll never amount to anything"
"Everyone has done this, why can't you?"
"Wish you could be like your sibling..."
"You MUST do this, I'll be really disappointed if you are the only one in the family that don't achieve this!"
"I will only buy you this toy/thing if you achieve THIS"
We've probably heard these things in different forms at some point of our lives. These are made of bone crushing and spirit breaking stuff. They have the power put us on course towards the excruciating abyss of a lifetime of self-pity and depression. And yet, such thoughts are found in the very heads that it traumatised. So many of us find ourselves continuing the cycle of hurt that we so detest.
We've been homeschooling for almost 8 years. It has been a highly rewarding AND reflective journey. Although it wasn't a decision taken lightly, many questioned and doubted our choice. You see, Debra and I grew up in an immensely stressful education system and culture. It is a land where success and one's value is very narrowly defined. It is a system where many children wake up from 530am and only stop school related activities at 10pm before bed time. It is a country of just over half a million school going kids (7 to 16) but they generate S$1.68 billion (£1 billion/USD1.25 billion) annually for the private tuition industry. Growing number of parents go as far as purchasing multi-million dollar properties to secure places in "better schools" to ensure success for their children. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings is almost validation of the pressure put on children. Singapore is ranked second in the world for reading literacy, mathematics, and science in 2018. Despite the stellar results, there is a shocking amount of people that grow up feeling like a failure. This extreme fear of not measuring up and not achieving enough is encapsulated in a word so famous that the Oxford dictionary incorporated it: KIASU.
One of our greatest motivation for homeschooling our children is our desire to break this cycle of trauma. We saw and experienced the pain as students and former teachers in the public education system. We didn’t want to raise unhappy children that loathed learning, loathed life and loathed themselves.
These are perhaps the 3 most salient lessons I've learnt from 8 years of teaching my own children and in that process unlearning what I've been told.
1. It is okay to fail.
Not achieving success is a highly uncomfortable experience. Nobody likes to fail. This gives us even more reasons to respond kindly when someone experiences failure. If we were to break the cycle of trauma, we have to learn to accept that failures are experienced. Failure is an experience that DOES NOT define us.
2. Don't compare, compare.
The problem is not comparison. The problem lies in the ranking and judging that follows comparison. It is intellectual indolence to define people simply by looking at their wealth, status or grades. If human life is precious, we must surely agree that its worth cannot be defined by what that life has achieved or not.
It is inevitable that parents compare their children with their siblings or other children. We compare our children too. Comparison should help you see how unique your child is. Comparison should help you understand them as an individual. Comparison should help us discover their strengths and weaknesses and inform us of the best way to facilitate learning.
Comparison is about understanding. Comparison is not for ranking or judgement.
3. Love unconditionally
I hope I'll always make my children feel loved simply because I love them. I don't want them to ever feel like they need to please me with something before they are loved. It is manipulative and narcissistic to give gifts, love and affection only when your loved one can bring a success in exchange. We've seen many instances in our culture where one's worth is based on how much "honour" and "face" value you can bring to your family/parents/loved one. One should never have to experience "love" that is dependent on their achievements.
Love is not self-seeking.
Nobody is a failure just because they experience failure. No one should be made to feel like a failure and have their worth defined by comparison. No one should have to feel like they are a failure that don't deserve love because they did not achieve something.
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